An oasis of politics in a sea of turmoil


I have been a more than usually useless blogger recently. I have been completely sidetracked by my lecture on 21st century enlightenment, which is quite literally causing me sleepless nights as I veer from euphoric mania to teeth grinding despair. The plan now is to update the wiki with a full first draft by the end of next Monday. Someone innocently asked me the other day why exactly I perform an annual lecture. Being entirely unable to answer I had to go and sit in a darkened room for several hours to recover.

In as much as I have been noticing the world around me a few thoughts have glided past my fevered brow….

Yesterday we had a fascinating presentation here at the RSA by Stan Greenberg, a pollster not just to Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, but to a wide variety of parties across the world, including ones on the right. He had conducted a comprehensive poll of voters in the days immediately after the election.

His presentation left me with three thoughts: given that public opinion currently favours left of centre over right of centre attitudes on key issues (tax increases rather than service cuts, protect the state don’t shrink it) and given that there doesn’t seem to be much awareness of, or enthusiasm for, the Tory ‘big society not big state’ agenda:

a) Does this mean that David Cameron, far from underperforming, did incredibly well to win despite the general mood?

b) What will happen to the LibDems? On the one hand, public preferences and the tendencies of its supporters suggest that being a coalition partner with a right of centre party will prove very damaging. On the other hand, Stan argued that the LibDems could ‘own’ the political reform part of the coalition agenda while the Conservatives own the fiscal discipline side. Stan also argued that across most of Europe the party that establishes itself as ‘new politics’ and attracts younger voters (mainly the LibDems here but often the Greens abroad) usually maintains its strength despite cyclical shifts.

c) Given that Labour would almost certainly now be leading a centre left coalition Government if it had had another leader (Stan explicitly confirmed this) will it prove hard for Labour members to be enthusiastic about anyone implicated either in supporting Gordon Brown or failing to take the opportunity to oust him (OK this does rule out the whole former cabinet but maybe it’s time to skip two generations!)?

Being an enthusiast for collaboration I am, along with most other people, fascinated to see how the coalition does and we will be sending out invitations in the next few days to hear new ministers lay out their plans in the areas most relevant to the Society’s work.

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